Video conferencing technology is changing the landscape of the corporate world and the IT industry. Services such as Blue Jeans make videocall for IT departments easy and affordable. The biggest benefit is the increasing number of people able to work from home and companies founded on remote working thanks to this software. It can cause concern, however, that people aren’t forming personal relationships and working efficiently as a team as much as they would in an office environment. Corporations used to try and solve this with team building exercises and retreats which did nothing but take people away from their work. There are measures you can take to keep your remote team working well together. Here are just a few to get you started:
This doesn’t mean skipping work to play World of Warcraft or wasting time playing solitaire. There are a number of web based and trivia games you can play remotely to allow your team to socialize. Best of all, they don’t take too much time or provide too much of a distraction from work activities. Try Words with Friends for starters and see how it brings your team together.
The easiest way to make up for lack of social interaction is to simulate it online. If you can’t go out for coffee or to the movies together then do it from your computers. Using your video conferencing software, set aside an hour or so every fortnight just for social time or a ‘getting to know you’ session and save work discussions for another time. You don’t need to perform any cheesy or embarrassing exercises but just chat about what is going on in your lives. If you live in different locations around the globe then ask each other what is happening in each other’s towns. You can learn a lot about each other this way and become good friends even if you can’t see each other in person. This will have a knock on effect of helping you work together as a functioning team during work hours.
This doesn’t mean that you should schedule every minute of your working time rigorously like a Borg drone. Rather, save at least a few minutes in each online work meeting to give everybody a chance to catch up with each other, much as they would at an in-person meeting. This approach is recommended by Life Meets Work amongst many others. As a bonus effect, you will also save yourself a window to wait for late-comers and have time to solve any technical problems.
This is an ice breaker game that is often used at conferences and has even had game shows based upon it. Simply, each person has to tell two outlandish truths about themselves and one lie and everybody else has to guess which is which. It is an ideal method as it doesn’t involve too much social pressure. Instead, it provides interesting talking points and creates a fun and sociable atmosphere. Remote.co recommends this game as it also trains us to recognize non-verbal body language which we all use regularly but can be harder to spot when communicating through webcam.
If you have ever been to a corporate team building retreat, you might have found the motivational speaker at the end more memorable, inspirational, and fulfilling than any of the embarrassing team building games you were forced to play. The same is true for online team building. As well as a regular social meet-and-greet, you can also schedule regular seminars using your tele-conferencing software to give your team a regular pep talk. This could be inviting industry experts to speak or just having a different member of the team each week share their stories or life experiences that could help the team as a whole. You can even record and save these online sessions for people to watch back or catch up on at a later date. Whatever you choose to do, you will find it to be an enlightening and motivational experience for your whole team.
Just because you work remotely, doesn’t mean you can’t share physical gifts from time to time. Try sending packages between team members on special occasions or even just for fun to bring people closer together. This could be sharing food or sweets from your home countries or making each other handmade crafts. Even with an increasingly virtual lifestyle, sending and receiving physical gifts has a much more personal feel to it.
These are just a few ways to bring a virtual team closer together. Be creative and you can think of many more. The end result will be a closely knit team that works well together on even the toughest of work assignments.